Pelagic Outing November 2011

Meeting at 6:00 am at the One Degree North marina, we began the last of the NParks sponsored surveys of the Singapore Straits.

Already as we were leaving the marina the sky was just beginning to lighten, and it looked like good weather.  Immigration formalities at Sisters wasn’t bad, but was long enough for our overseas visitor to comment.  But that was nothing like the delay we’d have on the way back!  Anyway, finally getting underway around 7 am, we rounded the southern islands and headed over to the Indonesian side in the shipping lanes.  What a contrast between Singapore and Indonesia.  Here’s a shot of the new Marina Bay Sands in distance with early morning light & haze.

And swinging the camera around, here’s a fisherman plying his trade.

And in the distance, perhaps where he came from is a fishing village on stilts, and a Chinese cemetry on the hillside behind.  This is the Indonesian island of Belakang Padang, which is only 7 miles from Singapore at the narrowest point of the straits.


It was just a few minutes after watching the fisherman, that we saw some really big fish.  But they weren’t fish, they were a pod of dolphins.  About eight Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins and two Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins.  What a thrill, we watched them swim and covort from about 7:45 to 8:00 am.  I guess we could have stayed even longer, but we had birds on the mind.  Here’s some bottlenose.

 And here’s a humpback dolphin enjoying a back flip.


One thing for sure, you can count on lots of ships in the Singapore Straits, and some are rather unique, or carrying unique cargo.  Here’s a rather large piece of a rig on a barge being towed.

With some terns enroute, we reached one of our favorite landmarks, Cable Buoy #1 around 9 am.  This buoy has rewarded us in the past with a couple of skuas that came in to investigate the terns that are usually there.  Today was no exception in terms of the terns with both Lesser Crested and Swift terns perched there.

It’s also a good spot to get some flight shots as the terns circle around the buoy, here’s Lesser Crested Tern.  But there was to be no skua today, at this buoy or anywhere else that we could see.  No doubt some where around though.

Not long after we left the Cable Buoy we saw our first flight of Oriental or Crested Honey Buzzards on migration from Singapore / Malaysia to Indonesia.  This first flight was the more photogenic of the two flights, in total just more than a dozen OHB’s were seen.

Continuing our journey until about the eastern most point of Singapore we checked another buoy at about 10:15 am.  In the past this buoy had given us a skua chasing a White-bellied Sea Eagle!  But today, was loaded with White-winged Terns.

We decided to head further east now entering Malaysian waters.  Here we saw one of the more interesting vessels of the day, the Maersk Responder, which turns out to be a dredger.  But a extra fancy dredger, I’ve never seen such a utilitarian ship outfitting with a helipad.

Soon after, see not much more than lots of ships, we decided to head back and follow the Singapore coast line, stopping at and checking as many of the buoys as possible.  We reached this buoy about 11:30 am.  There were several Swift Terns, and in particular one juvenile still begging for food, which raises the question, where was its breeding colony …

Also on this buoy were several Little Terns.  Quite a contrast in size to the Swift Terns.

Nearing the heart of the southern islands we reached St. John’s at 12:30 am and were rewarded with a Great-billed Heron.

Having reached the immigration check point early we might have proceeded to some of the harbor islands, but that thought was put to rest with a very long wait for immigration, so instead we called it a day and headed back to Sentosa Cove.  Here’s the route map we followed.

And here’s the happy crew!  Made a tiny bit happier with a celebratory tiger; and a big thanks to Colin and Geoff for arranging this memorable series of outings.


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